On March 3, 1913, as many as 10,000 women gathered in Washington, D.C. the day before Woodrow Wilson would be inaugurated as President and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Woman Suffrage Procession to “march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.”
Most women completed the route, however, finishing in front of the Treasury Building.
It would be another seven years until women would win the right to vote in the United States, which means it’s been less than 100 years that women have enjoyed the right to vote in national elections. Interesting how new some things are, when it seems so commonplace for me to debate politics with friends of both genders..
The suffrage movement was historically interesting, as it was disenfranchised but educated citizens demanding rights that those in power did not necessarily need to give them. Many compare the enfranchisement of African American former slave males to the enfranchisement of women, but in this way, it was different. Giving slaves freedom and then citizenship and then the right to vote was a political move by Republicans (the post-Civil War 14th, 15th and 16th Amendments formally freed former slaves, made them citizens and gave them the right to vote, respectively). Before that, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves who agreed to fight for the Union transformed the Civil War into a moral war, instead of an economic one, and kept the French, who almost came in on the side of the Confederates, out. The Amendments guaranteed that many Southern Blacks would vote Republican for generations. In other words, enfranchising this population fulfilled political and diplomatic needs.
Allowing women the right to vote was never really politically expedient, so it took the constant work of women such as the ones who showed up to this parade to force it out of elected officials. One hundred years later, women’s rights, representation in government and business, and place in the work place are still debated and weighed, as this blog attests to. But oh how far we’ve come.